She straightened her shoulders and thinned her lips. She’d ignored other men, other charming men with nice smiles, and she would do the same with this one. She refused to let herself think about him. In her world, he would simply cease to exist. The small ripple he had generated in her consciousness would soon dissipate, and her particular pond would be serene again.
Gathering up the four bills, she stuffed them in the pocket of her paint-smeared smock. The money would come in handy to pay on a few of Dad’s medical bills. Maybe they would even have enough left over to get the washer fixed. She was getting sick and tired of trekking off to the washateria every Saturday morning.
But no, they had more pressing needs than repairing the washing machine.
After looking at her watch, she began tidying the tables, returning the cardboard tubes and glue bottles to a big box in the art cupboard and moving the castles to the long drying rack in front of the windows. Aidan’s creation looked particularly impressive, she thought. He’d worked really hard on crenellating his towers evenly.
And despite herself, she also thought about Aidan’s father.
Good grief, she was just like any other stupid girl—caught by smooth talk and a handsome face!
Neil strode down the hall to the principal’s office to sign out.
Damn, what was wrong with that woman? People usually liked him, especially women, but this one--Ms. Ann McCoy, art teacher extraordinaire--she’d acted as if he was the devil incarnate. You’d think he’d threatened to throw her to the floor and have his wicked way with her.
But the psychologist had said Aidan needed her and Neil should take advantage of every opportunity for them to be together.
The school secretary, an over-the-hill blonde, smiled coyly at him as she handed him the logbook.
Guess that meant he still had it—except in Miss Prim’s eyes.
He’d wondered what she would be like, this teacher that Aidan thought hung the moon.
He’d pictured her as older, probably in her fifties, with rosy cheeks and a motherly manner, a comfortable woman who had children of her own, maybe grandchildren. Someone warm and welcoming--not this bristly little cactus who didn’t even seem to want to acknowledge that she was female.
Those heavy-framed glasses looked like something out of a Borscht Belt comedy routine. Groucho Marx reincarnated. Why not add a mustache and a cigar?
He picked up the ballpoint pen attached to the visitors’ book and checked himself out of the school. A flock of orange, yellow, and pink origami cranes hung from the ceiling behind the counter. Miss Ann, as Aidan referred to her, certainly kept her students busy.
How did she stay busy? Did Miss Ann have a real life? How old was she? Not as old as she tried to look, he would bet. It was odd for an artist, a person so involved with visual impressions, to deliberately disguise herself. Not just the glasses, but the way she pulled her mouse-brown hair back into an unflattering knot, and the fact that she didn’t wear even a smidgen of make-up. A little mascara would have gone a long way towards disguising those bulbous eyes. And that shapeless smock on top of wrinkled chinos—the woman didn’t have a curve to her body.
He grinned to himself. No wonder she wasn’t sporting a wedding ring, although Lord only knows why he noticed the lack of it. Probably just male reflex.
Yes, Ms. McCoy was more accurately Miss McCoy and would be till the day she died. A born old maid.
He just wished he knew what Aidan saw in her.
Pushing his way through the pneumatic front doors, he headed toward the parking lot
next to the playground.
On another level, he felt sorry for her. Aidan’s Miss Ann was too young to be so old. Not that he gave a damn. He’d learned taught his lesson twice over. The only way he was interested in women now was as casual playmates, and little Miss Prim certainly did not fall into that category.
But would it have killed her to smile? To smile at him?
Stopping at the playground gate, Neil looked around to locate his son. Sure enough, there he was, all alone, sitting on a concrete step near the school entrance and reading, his backpack on the ground beside him. Five or six boys about his age were running all around the large, grassy yard and tagging each other, then lurching across the playground like zombies, but Aidan didn’t even look up to see what they were yelling about.
Neil leaned across the fence and used his hands as a megaphone: “Aidan.”
The boy glowered at him as if he resented being drawn out of his fictional world, but when Neil gave him the thumbs up, he smiled and his whole face transformed. Neil’s eyebrows lifted. If Miss Prim meant that much to the kid, he’d damn well buy her for him.